Pre-Approved vs. Prequalified Credit Card

Do you know the difference in credit card eligibility


Between the envelopes in your mailbox and the emails in your inbox, you've probably come across something that says you're pre-qualified or pre-approved for a credit card offer. Or maybe you want to see if you're eligible for a card offer with a better rate. But what does this really mean? How do you find out if you're pre-qualified or pre-approved? And why does it matter anyway?

What is a Prequalified Credit Card?

Simply put, credit card pre-qualification means that a credit card company worked with a credit bureau to take a look at your basic credit information. They may have set a standard, such as a minimum credit score, and asked for a list of people who met it. Or maybe they gave the credit bureau a list of specific people and asked for a check on their credit.

Either way, the information the credit card company saw told them that you might be a good potential customer, and that's why you're pre-qualified. This happens before applying for a credit card, so you may not get the card you’ve been pre-qualified for after a full credit check. For example, this could happen if there were any major changes to your employment, salary or debt.

The pre-qualification process is a "screening" of your basic credit information, and you might see the term "pre-screened" instead.

How to Get Prequalified for a Credit Card

Well, the arrival of an offer is one way, but you can find out if you’re pre-qualified any time with online tools like this one, which shows if you’re pre-qualified for a Capital One® card.

Can Prequalification Hurt Your Credit Score?

A pre-qualification may appear on your credit report as an “inquiry” (banking talk for a request to check your credit. This could be a soft inquiry, which means it won’t have a negative effect on your credit report or credit score. A hard inquiry, which generally happens once you apply for a credit card, may impact your credit score.

What is a Pre-Approved Credit Card?

On the surface, it may look like pre-approved and pre-qualified are used interchangeably. But when it comes to marketing, some credit card issuers will set up different customer parameters for each one. This could mean a higher approval rate for pre-approved offers than pre-qualified offers. However, it depends entirely on the parameters set by each issuer when letting potential customers know they may be eligible.

How to Get Pre-Approved for a Credit Card

Just like pre-qualified credit cards, the arrival of an offer is one way, or you can go straight to a credit card company to fill out some basic information to see if there’s an offer on the table.

Do Pre-Approvals Affect Credit Score?

Pre-approvals won’t affect your credit score and appear as soft inquiries on your credit report. Once you apply for a credit card, a hard inquiry will be made, which could impact your credit score.

Accepting a Pre-Approved or Pre-Qualified Credit Card

If you decide you want to apply, that's a good time to take a close look at things like interest rates and terms to determine which card is right for you.

If you'd rather not get pre-qualified credit card offers, you can opt out of receiving them by calling toll-free 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) or visiting optoutprescreen.com.


We hope that you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.